The High Sheriff: Meet the Characters of Magnolia Bluff

Buck has one facial expression. He grins when he sees you. He grins if he is about to hit you with the hickory club that hangs from his belt.

Every small town has a law officer who’s tough, who takes no nonsense off of anybody.

But he has a good heart.

Probably not a pure soul.

But a good heart.

He’ll go out of his way to help you.

But only God can help you if you break the law.

In the Texas Hill Country town of Magnolia Bluff, that lawman is the high sheriff, Buck Blanton. Here is the scene when you meet him for the first time in Eulogy in Black and White.

*

Caleb Pirtle III

Buck Blanton makes a sudden U-turn, its headlights splintered by the rain. I pull my denim jacket collar tighter around my throat and watch him ease slowly to the curb beside me and stop. The only sounds Magnolia Bluff can manage at four minutes past eight on a soggy morning are distant rumbles of thunder and Buck’s windshield wipers slapping back and forth in a lackadaisical effort to shove the spatter of raindrops aside.

The sheriff rolls down his window and pushes his blue-tinted Shady Rays sunglasses up above his thickening gray eyebrows. Buck fits the job description of a country sheriff perfectly. Sunglasses, rain or shine. A thick neck. Broad shoulders. Barrel chest. Sagging jowls. Broad nose, probably broken more than once. Hands big enough to grab a grown man by the throat, jerk him off the floor, and shake him into submission. A gray felt Stetson hat lies in the seat beside him. I can’t see his feet, but I know he’s wearing his full quill Justin cowboy boots as black as his skin. Wouldn’t be caught dead without them. Says he was born in them. Says he will die in them. I don’t doubt it for a minute.

“On your way up to see Freddy?” He asks, glancing at the flowers in my hand. The rain has beaten them up pretty good. His voice is deep and mellow, a full octave lower than the thunder.

I nod.

Buck has one facial expression. He grins when he sees you. He grins if he is about to hit you with the hickory club that hangs from his belt. He grins if he’s praying over your lost soul at the First Baptist Church. He’s grinning when he throws you in jail. He’s grinning if he has to shoot you first. I suspect he grins in his sleep.

“Need a lift?”

I shake my head.

“It’s a bad day for walking,” he says. “You still got a mile or so to go before you reach Freddy.”

I shrug. “It’s fine,” I say. “I’m already wet.”

Buck opens the car door. “Get in before I arrest your sorry ass,” he says.

I look closely.

His grin has reached his eyes.

I climb into the front passenger seat. “Hate to mess up your upholstery,” I tell him.

“Don’t matter.” The sheriff wheels back down an empty street. “I’ll have a couple of drunks in here before the day’s out, and they’ll be a damn sight wetter than you are.” He leans forward and studies the rolling black clouds closing in from the west end of Burnet Reservoir. “That’s the trouble with the weather,” Buck says. “It rains on the just and the unjust alike.”

“Sound like a preacher,” I say.

“Tried it once.” Buck shrugs. “Didn’t like it. Found it’s easier to drag the bad guys to jail than drag them to the altar.”

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